Scared, Angry, Old White People

Yesterday brings yet another of that shocking-not-shocking type of video of a Congressman interacting in an unscripted manner at a town hall meeting with scared, angry, old white people – his constituents. This time, it’s Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) who gets the video treatment, fielding a question from a misinformed and enraged elderly woman (do these guys really not know there are now cameras and the internet, which follow you everywhere you go?):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxr4cEC9IXw

I say “shocking-not-shocking” because although the content of what one of Bridenstine’s constituents says is certainly shocking – and Bridenstine’s reaction even more so for a United States Congressman – these have become so common since the rise of YouTube in 2005 (can you believe it was only 8+ years ago?! I can’t…) that there’s a danger of something this genuinely disturbing simply going unremarked as just more of the violent insurrectionist white noise that seems to be at a constant thrum in the background of today’s GOP.

Transcript (if you couldn’t understand it) plus why it’s interesting after the jump.

There’s something else worth remarking on in that video, too: have a look around at the audience Bridenstine was addressing. The camera doesn’t pan the room to show you everyone present, but everyone who’s in view throughout the entire video is white and appears to be at the very least fifty years old – and many are probably closer to seventy or even older. In short, they’re FOX News’ primary demographic, as Frank Rich pointed out recently in his profile of FOX News for New York magazine.

We’ve heard similar stories before, as well. There was the famous incident with John McCain and the confused old lady who called President Obama “an Arab.” McCain first dealt with another middle-aged white man who said he was “scared” of an Obama Presidency, to which McCain told the audience they did not have to be, that while he disagreed with most of Obama’s political ideas, he was “a good man.” Immediately after, McCain faced the elderly woman who called Obama an Arab. McCain, to his credit, dressed the woman down (gently), contradicting her and simply saying “he’s not” before moving on (though McCain has not always answered such questions in such an honorable way).

There are scores of similar videos of constituents saying shocking things casually – like the President should be shot, we need violent revolution, etc. – and an equal number of videos of Republican Congressmen and Senators saying inflammatory things (though few call for outright violence). In the case of the elected officials, it’s often difficult to tell whether their insanity is serious or whether they’ve simply discovered that such language plays well to certain crowds – as when Georgia GOP Representative (and Senatorial candidate) Paul Broun described evolution as “lies straight from the pit of hell” in front of a sympathetic crowd of young-earth creationists.

When the situation is reversed, and it’s the elected official fielding unscripted questions from constituents, though their reactions are rarely as honorable as McCain’s response to the Obama’s-an-Arab woman, it’s worth noting that the startling stew of vitriol and misinformation almost always comes from scared, angry, old white people.

(transcript of first part of above conversation):

ELDERLY WOMAN CONSTITUENT: Let me ask you about that, uh, Obama – who is not President as far as I’m concerned, he should be executed as an enemy combatant (unintelligible, laughter) – but the Muslims that he is shipping into our country through Thailand in commercial jets…what, what…I just can’t tell you, I can’t say because we’re in a public place, but this, this guy is a criminal!  Nobody’s stopping — and the other thing is too, you know, is Congress doing nothing, that legally allows this moron to make decisions. He has no authority! None! And he’s just…and we just…and oh yeah: we should do this, and we should do that, but nobody’s doing anything that’s accomplishing anything!

REP. BRIDENSTINE: Look, everybody knows the lawlessness of this President. He picks and chooses which laws he’s going to enforce or not enforce. He does it by decree. When he can’t create a law, or when he can’t create a law through Congress, then, then, he uses the, the, the, you know, the bureaucracies in the executive branch to create rules and regulations by executive order, and ultimately, when it comes to, ah, when he can’t even get that done, then he uses foreign bodies. He uses, ah, you know, the United Nations to try to change the laws in the United States, which is not what the United Nations is for. I’ll give you an example…

Their old road is rapidly aging, and they know it, instinctively. Somewhere, back in their youth before body and mind calcified beyond the point of easy adaptability to new things, they made a choice to shrink their worlds or at least remain comfortable knowing only the borders of their own small towns or the insides of their own heads as they already were. Now, in the autumn or winter of their years, they’ve known nothing else all their lives because they’ve chosen not to know anything else…and unfamiliar things simply confuse and frighten them. And confused and frightened people are often angry people, angry at a world they feel has turned against them and “the way things ought to be.” It’s no surprise that phrase is the title of Rush Limbaugh’s first book.